A friend once told me that art is supposed to make you happy. I laughed at the time-- it seemed like an uninformed and oversimplified point of view. Did he not know that art intended to make people happy was thought of as cheap and superficial? Did he not know about Thomas Kinkade or Taylor Swift?
I still believe that asserting all art was created for the sole purpose of making people happy is incorrect. But as I started to really evaluate this sentiment, I had the epiphany that it's also wrong to say that art made in the name of happiness is unworthy of appreciation. To be honest, I have always been drawn to the kitschy and excessively twee-- if it's pink or has cats on it, I'm there. But until that moment, I'd thought that the art I absorbed along those lines, in other words the art that really made me happy, wasn't deserving of the same type of attention as more *serious* works. Hello Kitty could not be placed in the same rank as Marina Abramovic.
But isn't happiness just as elusive and hard to describe as sadness, or pain, or empathy, if not more? And therefore equally as difficult to make people feel through art? The common belief that happiness is not worthy of creative exploration, or that, in art, it comes at the detriment of social critique is simply untrue. All of the aforementioned feelings and entities are far more intertwined than we care to realize.
I've always admired Boopsie Daisy's work for precisely this reason. The saccharine images of baby dolls and animal statuettes posing sweetly with candy against pastel backdrops make me happy. The amount of artistry that goes into crafting that feeling of childlike joy should not go unnoticed. She communicates the nuances of happiness by offering us a whimsically over-the-top, feast for the eyes caricature of what happiness is supposed to be. In doing so, we are re-awakened to the concept of joy, allowed back into the head space we occupied as children-- a state of constant captivation with the world-- but return to this mindset with the knowledge of its increasing rarity in our adult lives, which lends a bittersweet nostalgia to the initial youthful euphoria one might feel while viewing her photographs (what does the fact that we've lost this feeling say about the world?). Obviously, any work that inspires a response that is this complex is absolutely worthy of appreciation and respect. Boopsie Daisy is incredibly gifted at the art of happiness.
How do you come up with concepts for your photos?
The themes and scenarios in my photos tend to reflect my own obsessions & interests. I guess I am guilty of using my dolls and toys to represent my hobbies, dreams & desires. Sometimes though, a toy or doll is so cute I want to maximize that cuteness in any way possible, hence why sometimes a sweet pink deer or bunny will wind up covered in chocolate syrup & ice cream.
What do you hope to communicate with your photography?
I like to tap into people’s feelings / memories of happiness, wonderment and nostalgia, and I find that mixing jubilant looking toys & colorful, classic junk food is often the perfect formula to achieve that. My work isn’t necessarily intended for children, so when grown adults tell me my art makes them feel warm & fuzzy inside, or like they’re a kid again, that is music to my ears.
In what ways do your children inspire you/your creations?
The endless elation my children bring me absolutely fuels me, so in that way I’m constantly driven to add to my body of work. Kids say the darndest things, so often I will create a print based on something funny they have pondered or maybe even something I saw them do. My daughter once dressed a dinosaur toy up in a pink wool doll cape and left it sitting on the kitchen counter. Something small like that can spark an idea for a new print. Even a dumb joke they came home from school with can trigger inspiration.
Have you always had the same general artistic style?
Yes, my style has basically remained the same over a decade. My skills and sets have sharpened and grown more elaborate maybe, but I don’t see my work ever evolving to the point where it’s unrecognizable from where it first started. Ultimately, it’s always been about fun and whimsy and color. That’s my tried-and-true Boopsie recipe! I guess over the years my work has gone over into the dark side a bit, but never without losing a sense of playfulness & merriment.
Do you have a favorite photo that you've taken?
I have a handful of three or four all-time favorites. They’re not my best sellers but more so the ones that turned out exactly as I saw them in my head before I brought them to fruition. ‘My Job Blows’ could possibly be the one I would choose if I were forced to pick a favorite. Sometimes what I envision doesn’t necessarily work out, but that particular print turned out exactly how I imagined it. It might be my favorite just because it resonates with me so much. The fact that it’s dark but really makes you feel light and alive somehow.
What's your favorite toy that you own?
That’s really tough to nail down, but I guess if I had to, I’d choose the little vintage pink haired celluloid doll that has become my Boopsie icon / mascot. In the 10 years I’ve had her I’ve never seen another doll quite like her. She was just five bucks and has no arms but I never get tired of seeing her. I love her giant eyes, chubby cheeks and wary expression. In real life I look nothing like her and yet, she’s come to mean so much to me, sometimes I half expect to see her staring back at me in the mirror.
If you could travel back in time, what time period would you go back to?
I’d go back to the 60s in a heart beat. Everything was zany back then. Probably the first place I’d head is the grocery store just to view the incredible packaging and graphics! I am enamoured with the 50s & the 70s as well, so visiting the era right smack bang in the middle of them sounds ideal. Music had just turned an epic corner & toys had reached the pinnacle of tacky kitschy cute!
Lastly, how do you see your work changing in the future?
They say change is inevitable and I’m sure that truth will feature in my work eventually. I do have deep aspirations of being able to use my work as a strong but sublet voice. The world is changing at such an incredible speed. Without going into specifics, a lot of that change is wonderful and positive but a lot of it isn’t & I find myself wishing I could use what I do to anchor my audience & keep them invested in what’s real and good and pure. I don’t want my work to feel stuck in time, but it is based around the feelings, ideas as values of ‘yesteryear’, and the more I look around the more I see people looking lost and angry and disheartened. While my work will always retain the look it is known for, the message behind it may one day aim for something deeper & more meaningful. Until then, I’m just satisfied making people smile.
Images used in collage via @boopsie_daisy